Pandora outdated?


EvilDragon

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You think it's funny that it's me opening this thread?


Don't worry, I don't think it's outdated. It's just sad to see the usual comments on SlashGear, etc. "this thing is outdated", etc.


As I had a talk with TI technicians last week (both about our current Pandora as well as about a potential future model) and some other devs as well, I found out quite a few things I'd like to share with you here.


Especially with those who think the Pandora is horribly outdated.


1. The Cortex A9 is so much faster!


The Pandora features an OMAP3 SoC with a CortexA8. Currently, modern smartphones are normally using the CortexA9.


Some benchmarks have been made, and guess what the speed improvement from the A8 to the A9 is? 10 - 20%, depending on the application.


So the A9 actually is not that much faster than the A8 in the Pandora. Aditionally, the A8 we have in the Pandora features some neat things like NEON.


NEON is NOT included in every A9 CPU. It's optional. And NEON is a nice FPU. Thanks to NEON, we can enjoy fullspeed PSX emulation with 650MHz (well, also thanks to Exophase and notaz, of course).


Also, the L2 cache and other tidbits CAN make a difference.


There's an interesting article found here, which compares a cheap A9 with a proper A8. The A8 wins.


Interestingly, someone at gp32x.de grabbed a Yinlips (which is using that cheap A9 core) and thought the emulators performed worse than on the Caanoo...


BTW: While the Pandora SoC has a standard clockrate of 600MHz, actually, quite a few can clock up to 1,2GHz, a lot to 900 - 1GHz and most to 850MHz. If you check the web, the current DM3730 is being sold as 1GHz version.


What's the difference to the old DM3730 or our Pandora CPU? Basically nothing.


Production machines are constantly being tweaked, so the more recently produced OMAPs simply are guaranteed to run at a higher clock rate. The chip itself is the same, and it cannot clock higher, it will also stop working at about 1,2GHz (as a maximum).


You can happily run your Pandora with 800MHz. It won't cause you any damage.


2. But modern phones have DualCores, so they are way better!


Sure, a DualCore is neat, but does it really give you a lot of speedups?


A single program usually runs on a single core. So no emulator or game would get a speed boost from a DualCore CPU. It would speed things up with multitasking though.


So if you were running 10 apps at once on the desktop, you would probably see a speedup of the system.


Unless you plan to do that on the Pandora, a DualCore wouldn't speed things up a lot.


It sure makes sense for a smartphone, as a smartphone has multiple services like a phone service, etc. running all the time. But the Pandora is pretty optimized in that case, so it wouldn't help that much.


Besides, DualCores probably need more power - so you would sacrifice battery time for a small speedup (if any).


3. Why do you NEED a modern CPU?


This is an interesting question. What would a Cortex A9 give the Pandora that can't be done right now?


I cannot think of any game that would not be possible to work on the Pandora right now (unless badly coded and quickly ported ;) )


The A9 wouldn't bring you more emulators either.


We've got everything up to N64 running in fullspeed, basically. Sure, N64 might run a bit faster. Maybe also some MAME games. But that's about it.


You wouldn't be able to emulate PS2. Or GameCube. Or whatever.


So, what would a more recent CPU in the Pandora help?


4. A system is also the software, not only the hardware


While faster SoCs are nice, a lot of the actual speed of a device also depends on the OS around it.


I heard that Forget-me-not runs slower on the iPhone4 than it runs on the Pandora even though the iPhone4 has a faster CPU (and a proper one as well, no cheap one).


Well, the difference is: A smartphone is a smartphone and the Pandora is NOT a smartphones.


The smartphone is a telephone, so the OS has been coded to always be responsive if e.g. a phone call comes in. This eats ressources, as well as all the other stuff that is running (the touch based UI, etc.).


The Pandora doesn't need all that. It has a desktop with a small memory and CPU footprint, and therefore, it can run stuff way faster.


Or is there a PSX Emulator that runs fullspeed without stuttering on an A8 with 650 MHz on Android or the iPhone3GS?


Not many devs used the potential of the Pandora. PCSXReArmed is one of the few outstanding examples that show what's possible with the Pandora.


No one is using the DSP yet, and not many apps make use of NEON. There's so much more possible.


5. Conclusion


I think the A9 wouldn't give us much. No more emulators than we already have. I don't think there exist a lot of games that would work fine on an A9 but not on an A8.


The speed boost from the A8 to the A9 wouldn't be high. So while the SoC is an older model (not "outdated" though), the more recent one wouldn't help much.


If there will be a Pandora 2 (I hope so, but it depends on the sales of the Pandora 1 :) ), it will probably use something like a Cortex A15.


According to some sources, it should be about 8 times faster than our current model. That's something!


However, the A15 won't go into mass production before 2013. So I think we still can have a lot of fun with our current Pandora hardware :)


Keep in mind though that I'm no hardware expert. While I try to be as honest and accurate as possible in this post, it might be I didn't understand something correctly. Feel free to correct me, if you know about these things as well :)
 
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Stradian

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Thank you for this, ED. The "normal" consumers only can understand what marketing will tell them, and not the men behind the curtain.


Edit: Changed my mind.
 
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Teajunky

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I find it amazing that you would have to even need to make a post like this, but to some these things wouldn't seem self apparent.
 

MarioPandio

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Great post ED, you should probably sticky it so it gets seen by inquisitive newcomers and allays some of their potential concerns if they are of the "must have bigger, faster, quad core" type.
 

Dead1nside

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Very good post EvilDragon. It annoys me when I see those truculent comments too. It's like you say, it's about optimising the software and there are still many possibilities. We're very lucky to have such knowledgeable and dedicated developers.


It's like the Nokia N9 (OMAP3630). Most reviewers say how quick the UI feels, and very performant, compared to the glut of dual-core Cortex A9 Android phones in the market.


I would like to know if you'll consider switching to the DM3730 though when the current batch of SoCs runs out.
 

gruso

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A very handy thread to have bookmarked, thanks ED.


Regarding pinning the thread, I think it would be better for people to use the follow function or bookmark it, for quick access whenever the topic is broached. If it's pinned, it will play to the tendency of the human subconscious to remember keywords but not explanations. Accordingly, "Pandora outdated?" will become "Pandora outdated!" in the minds of many, regardless of the contents of the thread.


Open to thoughts on that of course.
 

Prometheus

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^ I'm inclined to agree with your analysis. It might be worth adding it to the stickied resources thread, though. :p


On that note, I've bookmarked it too - great work, ED! :D
 

erico

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For one thing, the pandora is really an outstanding project as it was suppose to be out in the wild 3 years ago should ´some´ company not screw...


Still to this day, it is really advanced and it should be for quite a while.


The design under it is greatly well planned.


There seems to be an easy access to cortex these days, thanks the Koreans, so I do foresee a little "8-bit" kind of era revival coming.


I take it that should the pandora production runs out smoothly, and if price can be dropped somehow in a ´near´ future, it will grab a great share of this!
 

-Tj-

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Just playing devil's advocate here, wouldn't a more recent CPU be more power efficient?


I can kind of see why a lot of people regard the Pandora as "outdated", but imo hardware is nothing without software anyway. My 3DS sits next to me barely used, despite it being quite new hardware. My PS3 hasn't even played a PS3 game yet. Fact of the matter is my PSP (which is very, very outdated hardware by comparison) gets more play time than any of my other consoles combined. Of course it is running hacked firmware so I can play emulators and homebrew on it, and Monster Hunter is just about the only commercial game I play on it now, but my point is it really does come down to software. The Pandora is plenty powerful enough, and I really look forward to owning one.
 

sebt3

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Seriously?! I can vaguely remember when the PS3 was new... around 5 years ago. :blink:
There is more usages for a PS3 than gaming...


on topic : what make a device obsolete, is the lack of usage because something better exist... Show me a device and I'll agree on the "obsolete" part of the equation. Pandora have made the Psion obsolete for some....
 

Pickle

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No mention of the GPU, I think this one area where an improvment could have a larger effect then an increase in speed in the CPU. I think many of my ports are limited by the GPU not the CPU.
 

Saber

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An exacting summary of why the open source Pandora has many more years of viability. B)
 

Orion4874

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Why not rename the thread "The Pandora is Not Outdated" or "To Those that Believe the Pandora is Outdated" and then pin it?


Great post Ed, very straightforward and informative!
 
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Sure, a DualCore is neat, but does it really give you a lot of speedups?


A single program usually runs on a single core. So no emulator or game would get a speed boost from a DualCore CPU. It would speed things up with multitasking though.


So if you were running 10 apps at once on the desktop, you would probably see a speedup of the system.

I could really use a dual-core in my game, the audio decompression and mixer runs on separate threads.


and I'm moving the chunk packing, unpacking and geometry generator code to be multi-threaded as well (just finished changing the VBO code to be lock-free thread-safe).


on the memory side I'm still only at 66MB, not worried on that end.


Emus wouldn't get a significant boost from dual-core but my game engine definitely would :D
 
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I think many of my ports are limited by the GPU not the CPU.
+1
+1


on the BB I'm down to 50~60% cpu usage (as long as no chunks are updated), but ~30fps: GPU is chocking on the workload.


zooming out (more geometry) or zooming in doesn't change the framerate, it gets balanced out by the mipmap resolution going up/down == using the same memory bandwidth overall.


I still have to add PVRTC support so that should help a bit (32bpp -> 4bpp).


I'm not really complaining, its still more than playable and I got some room to speed it up.


overall I find the OMAP3530 to be well balanced without one single horrible bottle neck, the GPU could be just a wee tiny bit faster but is still adequate for 800x480.
 
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